Tortillas are a versatile food beloved by many. Everyone has some in their pantry or fridge. But do they last?
So how long do tortillas last? You are likely to get no more than four weeks of storage time out of your tortillas if you preserve them in the fridge or freezer. Storing them in a cabinet or pantry, do not expect more than a week of storage time. Corn tortillas can technically last up to ten days, but such a lifespan is unreliable.
How To Store Tortillas And Why
Tortillas are an interesting food. They do not jump out as such due to their simplicity but consider this: Tortillas are nutritionally similar to bread. They are high in carbs, give lots of energy, and can help you layer on fat if you are underweight (more on that later). However, they do not mold like bread molds.
When tortillas go bad it is because they go stiff and stale, like how a cracker goes bad. This is because of their starchy corn molecules, which crystalize after a certain amount of time.
Most people do not actually know what it means for something to crystalize. How it works is that molecules exist in certain shapes. The shapes the molecules of a tortilla, for instance, determine how soft it is, as well as how much heat can pass through it and how quickly, as well as other things.
Crystallization occurs when the molecules of the tortilla runs out of gluten, where the starch molecules get their water. Essentially, starch needs water, gluten provides water, but it can only provide so much before drying up.
This is why you can refrigerate tortillas, but you cannot freeze them. Freezing the tortilla would separate the water out from the gluten, as they freeze at different temperatures. They would basically go stale immediately.
Hence, refrigerating tortillas is the best way to store them. Cold temperatures cause chemical reactions to slow down. Most of the time, freezing is preferable because it slows chemical reactions down to a crawl. But in this case freezing does not work. You will want to refrigerate your tortillas if you want to store them.
One of the best surprises about tortillas in the 20th and 21st century is how well they can be cooked out of refrigeration. Not all foods can survive being refrigerated, and not all can survive going from being refrigerated to being cooked as normal.
The fact that tortillas went 12,000 years without being refrigerated, but were able to be refrigerated as soon as refrigeration was invented, it really speaks to their durability and versatility as a food.
Tortillas are seemingly a miracle food with an origin shrouded in mystery. Similar to so many foods, no one knows nor will they ever know who invented the tortilla. But whoever developed such a simple delicacy gave humanity a gift, as they can last for a long while even as they resist most molds.
Enjoy your tortillas while you can. With modern refrigeration, the length of time you have to turn them into something special is more than doubled. Such is the way of the modern world.